Category Archives: Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings

Chapter Three, part two

i have received numerous comments on the book installments being posted here. This feedback makes me feel good. Many of those comments point out errors i have made, both grammatically and factual. i feel good about that too. i am going through each correction, each piece of advice, each opinion and filtering them with my XO perceptions. After all the story took place thirty-five years ago and each of us have different perceptions of what happened. i think all of these comments will make the final book better. When i make changes (or not), i will acknowledge the people who contributed in the final draft. i am now considering this a group effort. In fact, i am considering reclassifying the author as “jim jewell with the officers and crew of USS Yosemite during her 1983-1984 deployment. Your contributions are welcomed…and thanks.

On with Chapter Three:

On Tuesday, August 30, the Yosemite got underway, not to deploy, but for “Sea Trials.” Shortly prior to deployment, Navy ships go to sea for a short period, one or two days, to check all equipment, insuring all is running correctly, and, just as importantly, get the crew used to going to sea. Yosemite’s sea trial was one overnight trip into the Atlantic. This new XO was ready. I would be just as glad if the ship didn’t come back to port and just keep heading east except for one thing. For as long as I could remember, I found one of the best things about deploying was having no phones and no brows. Deployment meant the ship was operating as a sole unit, even with other ships in a group, separated by lack of phone lines (before satellite communication and GPS came into existence). It was where a ship was meant to be: at sea. But this time, I was anxious for the one-night cruise to end.

Maureen and I had been married on July 30 followed by ten wonderful days of honeymoon in San Diego. Then I flew east to pick up my car and head to Mayport. Maureen and I thought we wouldn’t see each other until the deployment was over in late April, but we decided Maureen should fly into Jacksonville on Friday and spend the labor day weekend with me, before flying back to San Diego and work. She had rented a seaside cabin. To say I was anxious to see her was a huge understatement.

But that rendezvous would have to wait. Sea detail was set at 0800. I took my position as navigator next to the chart table on the bridge as Yosemite got underway. Navigating a ship out of port and standing out of a channel was one of my favorite evolutions. For sea detail, the only thing better for me was being the Officer of the Deck and having the conn in an open sea.

Mayport had one of, if not the shortest and most direct sea details of all Naval bases, just over a mile from the Mayport basin to the sea buoy. My navigation duties ended quickly. The pilot had left the ship. I joined CAPT Boyle and LT Sitton, the OOD and conning officer on the open bridge. The captain became a bit agitated as a number of sailboats appeared from the south crossing the end of the channel. Sailboats were not a usual problem in Norfolk where CAPT Boyle had spent most of his shipboard time while hundreds of sailboats in Long Beach and San Diego fouling up the channel were business as usual. The captain knew well the rules of the road, which included the rules for power ships and boats. He knew the rules for sailboats as well, but he had not had a great amount of experience with them and was not comfortable with those tacking ships bobbing on the water dependent on the winds. He knew I had not only had to deal with innumerable sailboats but also had crewed several while steaming out of and into Long Beach and San Diego.

There was some question as to whether Yosemite in this case should maneuver to avoid any collision. With the sailing vessels a mile or more away, CAPT Boyle asked me my opinion as to what to do.

“Don’t worry, captain,” I replied, “They will maneuver and avoid us. They normally don’t want to mess with ships this big. It is the law of gross tonnage.”

In less than a minute, the sailboats began to tack and disperse, giving Yosemite a clear shot east.

I felt relieved and good about giving my captain correct information.

Underway felt good. The day went better than I expected. All systems seemed to be in working order. Then after the evening mess in the wardroom, something occurred to set the tone for the entire deployment and for all of my tour as XO.

Being navigator (and shortly before LTJG Noreen Leahy became the real navigator even though I kept the title, an added duty for being executive officer), I walked up to the bridge with the intent of checking out the equipment and the quartermasters for shooting stars. The sun had set. It was twilight, the perfect time to shoot stars. As I came on the bridge, I walked past the chart table and quartermaster’s station and over to the starboard bridge wing. I looked down and was surprised to see the standing lights were on.

One of the primary Rules of the Road is from sunset to sunrise a ship must not have any lights visible except for standard “running lights.” Standard running lights consist of a green light on the starboard side, a red light on the port side, a white light as a stern light, and two forward “range” lights above and in line. This is to allow other ships to ascertain a ship’s aspect or an idea of her comparative direction in which she was heading. This aspect determines which ship is the privileged vessel (required to remain on course), and the burdened vessel (required to maneuver to avoid a collision). Other lights would make it difficult, if not impossible to discern the ship’s aspect. In my time at sea, any ship showing more than navigational running lights would be denigrated and called a “cruise ship.”

I called to the Officer of the Deck, “Why aren’t the standing lights off? Recognizing the OOD had much less experience than I had and it was the first time in a while since any of the watch standers had been to sea, I added, “Don’t you know the Rules of the Road prohibit standing lights to be on after sunset.”

“Yes sir,” the OOD responded, “But it’s in the captain’s night orders to leave them on all night.”

“What?” I almost shouted in disbelief.

“Yes sir, would you like to see it?”

“No, I believe you,” I responded as I walked over to the sound powered phone and rang the captain’s cabin.

“Captain,” the commanding officer answered.

“Sir, this is the exec. Have you finished your evening mess?”

“Yes, why?” CAPT Boyle responded.

“Well sir, I was wondering if you could come up to the bridge?”

“Certainly, be up in a minute.”

When the captain arrived on the bridge, he asked, “What’s up, XO?”

“I’d like to show you something,” I said and directed the captain to the starboard bridge wing.”

As he peered over the bulwark and saw the lights, CAPT Boyle shouted, “What the hell? Officer of the Deck, get those damn standing lights off right now. What kind of watch are you running?”

Before I could explain, the OOD repeated, “But sir, your night orders direct us to leave them on.”

“They aren’t my night orders,” the captain responded angrily, “Now turn those damn things off!”

“Aye, sir,” the OOD obeyed and ordered the standing lights off.

“Dammit, Jim, I forgot to rewrite the night orders,” Captain Boyle explained. “Those are Captain Roberts’ night orders. I’ll write mine tonight and you can edit them so we have them ready for deployment.”

“Aye sir,” I agreed, relieved the violation of the Rules of the Road was a product of the previous regime, not Captain Boyle.

He and I stayed on the bridge. The captain took his seat on the starboard side, and I stood next to him discussing how the day otherwise had gone and getting any input for Eight O’clock Reports.”

In about five minutes, Command Master Chief Weaver ran onto the bridge demanding, “Who turned off those standing lights off?”

With both the CO and I amazed at the Master Chief’s reaction, the captain beckoned him over.

“What in the world are you talking about, Master Chief?” the captain asked, “Why do you think the standing lights should be on?”

“Well, sir,” Master Chief Weaver responded, “With CAPT Roberts and CDR Sheffield, we kept them on and we created a roving security patrol. We wanted to make sure no one was sneaking out onto the weather decks at night for a little hanky-panky.”

There was a moment of silence. I was shaking my head in disbelief when Captain Boyle, with obviously controlled anger said:

“Master Chief, I want you to be sure that every person on this ship knows by tomorrow morning we don’t have men on board this ship; we don’t have women on board this ship. We have sailors aboard this ship. And we are going to act like that.

“We will observe all of the Rules of the Road as long as I am the commanding officer. And we will all act like sailors.


“Aye, aye, sir,” the master chief responded and then quickly left the bridge.

I smiled and told the Captain I had to get below to get ready for Eight O’clock Reports and left the bridge.

There is no doubt CAPT Boyle’s philosophy so well stated that evening became the watchword for how the ship did business for the rest of the time I was the executive officer. I used the captain’s direction that evening as my first guidepost in any situation requiring judgement about male and female personnel, officer or enlisted that arose during my time aboard the Yosemite.

*     *     *

Upon returning to port, activities increased even more. In addition to the loading of supplies, significantly more than a combatant as the Repair Department required an incredible amount of material, like steel in large sheets and other supplies for repair and maintenance during customer ship maintenance availabilities.

Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12 was having a change of command, which not only meant the captain would be gone that entire day, but there would be another admiral’s brief on board. The discrepancies from the sea trial and a zone inspection needed to either be fixed before getting underway or put in a long range plan for correction. Yosemite also took part in the change of command. She was charged with firing the gun salute during the change of command, a 13-gun salute as is due a rear admiral. At the ceremony, Captain Boyle was sweating during the salute while I was sweating with each round from our saluting battery. After an initial glitch from our battery, the gun salute went fine. No one, except us, noticed the glitch.

But it was time for a respite. It had been over three weeks since i had seen my new bride. I got the respite. Maureen had decided she should fly into Jacksonville on Friday, September 2, and spend the Labor Day weekend with me. While I was trying to find a suitable and inexpensive hotel for us, Maureen located and rented a small cabin on the beach. We had a wonderful weekend even with ship’s business frequently distracting me. We did have one moment that cut into the romance (pun intended). Saturday twilight, we settled into the cottage for an evening together alone and sat down on the couch looking out at the Atlantic past the sand and the small picket fence. I had opened up a bottle of sauterne while Maureen prepared a wonderful cheese and apple plate. After sitting down, Maureen went to slice the apple, but missed and cut a deep gash into her left palm. The rest of what had been planned as a romantic evening was devoted mostly to first aid and laughter.

Even though that Monday was a holiday, I had to do some work. But the newlyweds had some wonderful moments together before I put Maureen on a plane back to San Diego that Monday evening.

The clock toward deployment was clicking.

*     *     *

With days winding down, two more major difficulties arose, one impacted by Navy policy and the other older than the hills. Both involved with sailors trying to avoid deployments.

The first problem arose when the doctor advised me one of the female sailors was pregnant. In these early days of the Women In Ships program, Navy’s policy stipulated any female enlisted would be immediately transferred with Temporarily Additional Duty (“TAD”) to a shore command. One of the immediate repercussions of this policy was a number of women who didn’t want to deploy on a tender would get pregnant in order to avoid the deployment. I felt this policy was a product of politically correct, but misguided thoughts. The Yosemite had a capable doctor on board trained in family practice. If there was a problem or health issue, then the crew person should be transferred, but the blanket policy produced a lot of unwanted results. It didn’t matter. That was the policy, and the seaman was transferred to shore duty. As i recall, only one or two women were transferred due to pregnancy before we got underway for good.

This policy would come into play in a major difficulty with the Navy policy and women on board during the deployment.


Chapter 3: Getting Ready to Go

In Chapter Two, i erroneously gave Steve Stresminski, the weapons officer, the rank of lieutenant when, in fact, he was a lieutenant commander. Captain Boyle caught the error. Thanks, Captain.

i should note the book as it is presented here in installments is my first draft and likely to have a number of errors. As i noted up front, i am not anywhere near as good an editor as i would like to be. i anticipate more errors to follow and even deletions and additions. As i wrote, this is a first draft for what i hope will eventually be a book.

From here on, the length of most chapters will be quite longer than the introduction and chapter one. i am trying to determine how much of each chapter i should include in each installment. The length is likely to vary until i find the number of words i feel is appropriate for installments. Please bear with me on this one. i am planning to publish an installment twice a week, on Sunday and on Thursday, give or take a day or two. This is to hold my feet to the fire, motivation more than what i think might be best for the reader.

Here’s the first segment of Chapter Three:

Now in the saddle, I began to get a better picture of what was facing me.

Captain Boyle and I talked at length to come to an understanding as to how I was going to support him.

i still have a yellow sheet of lined paper where i listed my goals and concerns for being the ship’s XO, which i used as my talking paper for my discussions with Captain Boyle:

Clear with the CO:

Schedule meetings for AOM (All Officers Meeting), Chiefs, First Class Petty Officers, Junior Officers, Divisions

Meeting content: my dislike of meetings, will hold to absolute minimum, expect maximum attendance.

Other important points/goals:

    1. Critical exception for meetings: PB4T (Planning Board for Training) – make it meaningful
    2. Briefings, a necessary evil, each major evolution, especially seamanship; some of the best are informal.
    3. Quarters, 8 O’Clock Reports: keep them brief, inspections (ensure all hands know they are responsible)
    4. Personal meetings: open door policy
      1. Accusations: accuser must accompany accused.
    5. Closed door or sign on door with  locator notice of where i am.
    6. Messing and Berthing Inspections: do not fail to hold them daily
    7. Zone Material Inspections

My important points and MO:

    1. Cleanliness
    2. Safety
    3. Paint
    4. Liberty
    5. At sea hours
    6. Females
    7. Source documents
    8. Leave
    9. Notes
    10. Memos

The opening discussions between the CO  and me were pretty easy. I made sure to see the captain at least three if not four times a day, not counting his afternoon departure. Except for unusual circumstances, I did not leave the ship before the commanding officer left: bad form for an exec to do otherwise. We shared our ideas on the approach to running a ship. It was old Navy, correct and by the book. We both believed in good order and discipline as paramount for a ship to run well. Early on, we agreed the women on board should, as much as possible, be treated just like the male sailors.

Problems began to arise, not because the women were there. Yosemite normally had 760 enlisted, 65 chief petty officers, and 44 officers. The ship was deploying with over 900 on board. Instead of 65 CPO’s, there were 90. In addition, two of these chiefs were female. A separate and private compartment adjacent to the chief quarters had to be constructed. The 106 female enlisted were berthed in one separate compartment off of the main deck, port side. There appeared to be no problems with the berthing except the new executive officer was not pleased with the sanitation of the heads and the overall cleanliness and neatness of the compartment. That also was true of most of the ship’s berthing areas and heads.

I called the Bureau of Personnel to voice my complaint of too many personnel aboard compared to the documented “ship’s complement” figures, I was informed the Navy was very strict about adhering to the ship’s complement for combatants, a congressional requirement, but frequently “hid” extra personnel, especially in critical ratings aboard tenders to have a ready supply of those personnel in an emergency manning requirement for a combatant. I did not like varying from the rules but recognized this executive officer was stuck with the problem of too many sailors and would have to live with it.

*     *     *

It became apparent there was another problem as serious as having women on board. The problem was having a large percentage of the crew with no deployment experience.

Of the 90 chiefs, only thirteen previously had been on a deployment. Before the new approach of sending the tenders to forward areas of operation like the Mediterranean and Indian Oceans, the tenders sat at their homeport piers, getting underway for one day each year and then coming back to their pier but swapping which side (port or starboard) faced pier side for the next year. Therefore, repair personnel usually shuffled tours of duty from Ship Intermediate Maintenance Activity (SIMA) to the tender in that particular port. Tenders were considered “Class B” sea duty, which meant repair personnel would get credit for sea duty without ever actually going to sea. It was not much more than shore duty forever.

But not now. Now, these seventy-seven repair chiefs were really going to sea. For nearly eight months. (Yosemite and other tenders were still designated as “Class B” sea duty and did not draw “Sea Pay” for when the ship was actually at sea; for example, i would have received $260/month for those eight months deployed, but because my ship was “Class B” sea duty, i received nothing extra). Many of the chiefs (and their wives) panicked. The chiefs did not know what they were going to do being away from their families. The wives (none of the female chief petty officers on the ship were married) were even more alarmed. They had no clue as to how to deal with the Navy, how to set up the family finances, or take on the family tasks that had been the bailiwick of the husband. Many of the wives were raising hell about their husbands being away on a ship with women in the crew.

One chief had organized a group to establish a short-wave radio station so the chiefs’ mess could communicate frequently with their wives. This, of course, was a major threat to classified information, especially the location of the tender. Shortly after we got underway, we cut that off as soon as we discovered the chief’s operation.

There were financial arrangements to consider as well, especially for the majority of the crew, the ones who had never deployed before. Dina Weaver, the ship’s ombudsman informed me one Melody, the wife of Chief Adams, had told her the chief had not set up any allotments to go to her. That meant all of the chief’s pay would come to him on the ship. None would go to pay any bills, and Melody and the family would have no income except for what the chief mailed her. And mail from a Navy ship deployed to the Indian Ocean can take weeks. So this exec called Chaplain Poe who contacted Navy Relief and the Disbursing Officer. Through the effort of everyone involved, an allotment would be coming out of the chief’s pay to cover Melody’s financial needs through the deployment.

Of course, all such problems were channeled to the executive officer. The old seaman in me kept relying on common sense to handle most of these problems. There were no textbook answers. Confronting these problems coincided with running a ship of 900 personnel and getting the ship ready to leave home port for eight months. I was sailing into unknown territory.

For many years, I had said getting underway for deployment was great because when the command to “let go all lines” was executed, it meant that all phone lines, along with shore power, steam lines, and of course, mooring lines, would no longer be available for telephone calls (something with the advent of satellites and mobile phones is no longer true). For Yosemites deployment, I could have added wives couldn’t come aboard nor could the chiefs go home every night.

The new Navy had many ways to try and help out dependent spouses When I became a part of the Navy in the sixties, there was a tried and true refrain “If the Navy had wanted you to have a wife, they would have issued you one with your seabag.” This no longer rang true. Navy Relief was a source for aid and financial assistance for wives (or husbands) left behind on deployment. The ombudsman program was created to improve communication between ship crew members and dependents with the command. Both worked well, especially with Dina Webster, our unflappable and outspoken ombudsman. And Yosemite had extra manpower for the job. He was Chaplain Ernest Poe.

As expected, there were problems with men and women on board the same ship. It was even more of a problem for earlier CO and XO regimes. The duo before Captain Boyle and myself had a doozy. While underway before CAPT Boyle relieved CAPT Roberts, a female lieutenant was attacked in her stateroom. During the attack she was hit on the head and injured. When Yosemite returned to Mayport, the lieutenant was transferred off the ship. CAPT Roberts and CDR Sheffield, with no real guidance and concerned about the safety of the women officers, set up a security watch in officers’ country from taps to reveille. Several of the women officers were embarrassed about the watch. One said, “I personally was embarrassed that some poor enlisted sailor had to sit out there in the passageway all night and babysit us.” When Captain Boyle and I learned of the watch, we discontinued it.

Other problems arose. A female LTJG came to me in private and told me she believed someone was watching her and other women officers when they took showers in the women officers’ head. She was concerned there was a crack in the overhead, male crew members could use as peeping toms. We had our ship fitters thoroughly check the bulkheads. Although the shipfitters didn’t find any crack possibly manufactured by a possible peeping Tom, the work crew sealed up any holes where light might come through or a peeping Tom might expand and use to insure privacy in the women officer’s head.

The ombudsman program mentioned above had been initiated in 1970 in the Zumwalt CNO era. The Navy family ombudsman provides support and guidance to command families and to act as an official liaison between the command and its families. Dina Weaver, the wife of the command master chief, as mentioned before was the Yosemite’s ombudsman. She came aboard to meet the new XO and have lunch in the Captain’s mess with the CO and XO. I was particularly pleased when Dina saw the framed large photo portrait of Maureen I had hung on the office wall so I could look at her from my desk. Dina saw the photo and told me, “She looks just like Susan Lucci,” the soap drama star from “All My Children.” I thanked Dina for the complement but was thinking “Maureen’s prettier.”

A chaplain was part of the wardroom in only one previous command where I served. When I was XO of the MSC transport unit for the year of 1970, a chaplain was one of five officers in the unit. The commanding officer was a lieutenant commander billet, the XO billet was for a lieutenant, but I, a LTJG at the time, went through the whole year carrying Republic of Korea troops to and from Vietnam and Pusan, Korea unaware I could have applied for a spot promotion.  Therefore, I remained a lieutenant, junior grade, rather than becoming a lieutenant, something that could have helped my future career.

The MSC (nee Military Sealift Transport Service, or MSTS) units were formed for being the Navy liaison on ships run by the United States Merchant Marine carrying U.S. military personnel and dependents to various ports around the world. By 1970, the “troop” ships were down to three: the USNS Barrett (T-AP 196), the USNS Upshur (T-AP 197), and the USNS Geiger (T-AP 198). The three rotated with two serving to carry the ROK’s to Vietnam and back while the other went through upkeep. There was no real need for a Navy chaplain for Korean troops. The chaplain billet was dispensed with about three-quarters into my 1970 tour and the unit’s chaplain was reassigned.

The Yosemite’s chaplain was a different matter. This billet was to provide religious services and support to, not only the ship’s crew, but also to other ships in Yosemite’s area of operation. CAPT Boyle and I viewed LT Poe as a vital resource in handling morale and personal problems, especially for the women in the crew.

Just prior to my taking the XO position, LT Poe was counseling a second class petty officer and his wife in the chaplain’s office. The wife became very distraught and pulled a handgun out of her purse. The petty officer grabbed at the firearm and the wife shot herself in the leg. LT Poe proved his mettle in that incident. The CO and this XO had great confidence in our chaplain.

With the deployment looming, preparation in all aspects accelerated. “I” Division was called that for indoctrinating new crew coming on board. They went through an indoctrination period on every aspect of shipboard life aboard Yosemite. The week-long training concluded with a brief by the executive officer and then the commanding officer. This indoctrination seemed to be more frequent in the days leading up to the deployment.

An evolution quite more significant than my becoming Yosemite’s XO was occurring on Naval Station Mayport. RADM Donnell would relieve the standing admiral as Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group Twelve. As part of his relieving process, the admiral was scheduled to come aboard Wednesday after I took over on Tuesday, for a 1000-1200 briefing and ship tour followed by a noon mess in the Captain’s cabin. The XO was included in the lunch. The Yosemite was the repair facility for the ships in the group and therefore was considered part of Group 12. Admiral Donnell was a tall, large man and as he was touring the ship, they passed the ship’s motor whale boat in its davits. The admiral peered down into the boat, said nothing and the tour continued. As is the custom of good commanding officers (and executive officers), the tour route had been carefully combed over several times before the admiral came on board, but the captain had not thought of checking the interior of the boats. Captain Boyle, a bit concerned what the admiral might have seen and being unable to look with him because of the height difference returned to the davits after the admiral departed. He climbed up to where he could look into the inside of the motor whale boat. He was most pleased and relieved the whale boat’s interior was shipshape.

Admiral Donnell’s visit created a conflict for me. The XO’s Messing and Berthing Inspection normally began at 1000. But on Wednesday, the Planning Board for Training was always scheduled at 1000. In a normal work week, I planned to move the inspection to the afternoon and hold the weekly board meeting in the morning. Admiral Donnell’s arrival was scheduled to occur at 1000 also.

I had learned from my experience the value of the XO’s messing and berthing occurring daily during the work week without fail. Three years earlier I had become the emergency XO of the USS Cayuga (LST 1186) after the sitting XO had to be taken off the ship in a straitjacket. On my first workday, I discovered messing and berthing inspections had not been conducted for six months. The living quarters for the crew were revolting, unkempt and dirty. The heads were even worse, and the mess decks and galleys were completely unsanitary. I held messing and berthing inspections at 1000 without fail even when underway and on the weekends for the next two months. The spaces did a complete turnaround and the crew’s morale significantly improved.

I also knew the importance of the PBFT meeting. So we moved the board meeting up to 0800 and I held the messing and berthing inspection at 1400.

While my first messing and berthing inspection was not as bad as it had been on Cayuga, it still did not meet up to my standards. I particularly was displeased with the cleanliness, or lack thereof, in the heads, both men and women’s, and the poor sanitary conditions in the messes and galleys. I vowed to stick to my plan to not miss any such inspections for the rest of my tour.

With the admiral showing up soon, my first PBFT was very short. We went over the scheduled topics quickly and made sure the next week had no major surprises, then closed the meeting.

From my exposure to Admiral Donnell during the brief, tour, and lunch, I assessed him to be a realistic and effective leader. After the admiral had departed, Captain Boyle concurred and praised the flag officer for his leadership.

My second PBFT, occurring a week later proved unsatisfactory.

As mentioned above, Navy ships conducted a “Planning Board for Training” or “PBFT” every Wednesday at 1000. Yosemite was no exception. This is when all department heads and everyone responsible for special programs like drug abuse and welfare and recreation attend. Not only training, but the ship’s schedule, any inspections or other evolutions involving the ship would be discussed and an action plan established for the following week including specifics for each of those events. Like most ships, the Yosemite’s meeting was held in the wardroom.

In this PBFT, my first real one, I was appalled when the meeting extended into the time for the midday mess in the wardroom.  Several PBFT members were late and pre-meeting discussions kept the meeting from beginning before 20 minutes after the start time. Everybody had something to say, even if it was unimportant. No one was prepared for the meeting. Topics were brought up off the cuff, and numerous side discussions ensued throughout the meeting. This new XO asked the group if this was typical. The engineer acknowledged it was and affirmed it often delayed the noon mess in the wardroom like this one.

The next day at officer’s call, I put out the word about future PBFT’s. I said no ship’s meeting should last longer than 45 minutes. To accomplish this, I would put out an agenda with responsibility for the topic assigned to a member of the PBFT. That person would be responsible for bringing all pertinent information on the topic. I announced there would be no side discussions and no subjects other than those on the agenda would be discussed. If a need arose to discuss a non-agenda item, we would document it to be discussed at another time. Then I delivered the crushing blow. I declared if any members were more than five minutes late or all of the agenda topics had not been covered, the meeting would be re-scheduled after liberty call. From then until the end of my tour, all meetings in which I was part never went beyond forty-five minutes. A number of the PBFT thanked me. The supply officer was profuse in his thanks because the previous overruns had played havoc with the wardroom cooks and mess cooks’ schedule.

*     *     *

I had begun using a spiral notebook for my memos and to-do list on board the Okinawa, my previous ship. During the Okinawa’s overhaul when I managed subcontractors and eventually became the ship’s overhaul coordinator, my small 4×6 inch “wheel book” in my back pockets where I previously kept my schedule; notes, and business and personal reminders; my to-do list; and my calendar proved totally inadequate in size. The little green wheel book had been my brains for every command since I was commissioned. But the overhaul coordinator of a helicopter carrier could not put all of his data in a wheel book. And for this XO of a ship deploying in less than a month, with women on board, and a ship’s company of 900, a wheel book just wouldn’t hack it there either. I continued using the spiral notebook as I had used on the Okinawa, the sportswriter’s arm extension. Instead of one page or slightly more for each day, I was now filling up three, even four pages daily. In other words, I was busy.

As I settled into my XO role, I tried to put things in order as well as take care of my own needs. My office was on the starboard side of “Times Square.” There was a small private head immediately forward which led forward into my stateroom, about twelve by eight feet and including a single rack and closet space.

*     *     *

One personal goal was to not let the deployment interfere with my running. I had started running daily as early as 1975 and normally ran about five to ten miles at least five days a week. I was never a fast runner, but running had become an outlet and my major means of staying in shape. This had not been a problem on my previous ships. The big amphibious ships had places to run. Even the USS Anchorage had a flight deck and if vehicles were not loaded, one could run the flight deck down the ramps to the well deck and back up. The USS Tripoli, USS Okinawa, and USS Belleau Wood, all helicopter carriers, allowed running on the flight deck when flight operations were not being conducted. When Marines and their aircraft and vehicles were not loaded aboard the USS Belleau Wood (LHA 3), one could run the flight deck, down the ramp to the helicopter deck, down the ramp to the vehicle deck, down the ramp to the well deck, and back up and run a mile without lapping oneself.

The Yosemite had no large decks for such frivolous activities as running. After all, she was commissioned in 1945 when the Navy was focused on winning a war, not physical fitness. The “DASH” flight deck aft on the 02 level had been added for testing the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter. The DASH program after earning the derisive nicknames of “CRASH” and “SPLASH” was discontinued in 1969 after only six years in the fleet. The DASH deck on Yosemite was way too small for running but would prove invaluable later on this deployment.

After looking over the topside spaces, I decided the ceremonial deck, which wrapped around the 02 level (the second level above the main deck) and immediately below the bridge would work. If one ran 10 laps from the motor whaleboat docks on the 02 level through the ceremonial deck and back, it would be a mile. I had found it. I would run 55 laps every day possible, which worked out to about four or so days a week except when I ran in Diego Garcia or rarely in liberty ports throughout the deployment. The second day underway from Mayport, the daily Plan of the Day (POD) included this item:

ATTENTION JOGGERS/RUNNERS. The 02 level forward of the motor whale boats, around the ceremonial deck, will be open from 1115-1245, and 1630 to 15 minutes after sunset for running. Future early morning running hours will be announced as we get into areas where sunrise is at an earlier time. Ten trips around from port to starboard and back constitutes approximately 1 mile. You are encouraged to use caution if you intend to run. Take 15 to 20 minutes to warm up. Stretching is critical. Loosen up by holding a slight constant pressure on the muscles you are stretching. NEVER bounce the muscles loose, as some people do when bending to touch their toes. Bouncing may cause a severe pulled muscle.

We didn’t get a large number of runners, but we did get some.

*     *     *

Another problem I saw was managing traffic into and out of my office. The executive officer is constantly being sought for all sorts of reasons with a large amount of the crew and officers. In addition, I would be in and out of the office during the workday and didn’t want people waiting for me behind a closed office door when I wasn’t there. So I decided to let people know where I was when away. I taped two paperclips bent to hold lined paper pad cardboard backs on my office door.

Then I took those cardboard backs to the paper pads and made my own crude signs. “On Messing and Berthing Inspection,” “Out and About,” “With the Captain,” and with a running stickman “Out Running.” I also tried to convey the situation with folks who wished to see me in my office: “Knock and Enter,” “Conference in Session; Do not enter,” “XO Mast in Progress,” “Quiet Time, Please Do Not Knock or Enter.”

Then after just under two weeks on the job, I realized there were a large number of officers and crew coming to me to solve their problems rather than working on solving those problems themselves. I had read The Peter Principle by Lawrence J. Peter about people being promoted to their level of incompetence. I had also read William Onken’s Managing Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? with the anecdote about subordinates passing their monkeys to the manager’s shoulder. So I had the repair department make a Bakelite sign to hang next to the door where my crude cardboard signs hung. It read: “This is not a magic box. Solutions aren’t inside. If you have a problem, bring your solution with you.” From the feedback I received then and recently, the sign had some positive impact.

Chapter Three to be continued on Thursday (if i stick to my guns).

Chapter 2: Relieving the Watch

I was saluted when I crossed the brow and reported aboard to the quarterdeck watch. As the OOD called the exec and the captain, the messenger of the watch immediately escorted me up to the 01 Level, starboard side, just aft of the wardroom to the Executive Officer’s Office and stateroom. Commander Brian Sheffield rose to meet me. Brian was an affable, chubby man with thinning red hair.

*     *     *

Earlier, I had learned Brian and the previous CO, Captain Tim Roberts were TARS (Training and Administration of Reserves). A TAR officer was primarily responsible for being active duty administrators of reserve programs. Their duty stations alternated between reserve commands and non-reserve assignments, occasionally on normal at-sea duty.

In 1972 when I had requested return to active duty while I was sports editor of the Watertown (NY) Daily Times, my Bureau of Personnel (BUPERS) liaison had recommended I go TAR. Such a decision would almost guarantee my acceptance he told me. But I wanted to go back to sea, not administer reserves. I wasn’t all that fond of the Naval Reserve. Getting accepted for returning to active duty as a surface warfare officer was a much tougher proposition. In the end in large part because Captain Max Lasell, my second CO aboard my first ship, USS Hawkins (DD-873), made a special presentation on my behalf before the acceptance board, I was one of six accepted to return to active duty as a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO).

Having spent a year in reserves after flunking out of Vanderbilt and losing my NROTC scholarship, and almost two years as an officer in the Watertown, New York Reserve Unit, I was not overly enthusiastic about the TAR program. I realized that was a prejudice I had to overcome. Regardless, I was genuinely relieved when I learned Captain Boyle was not a TAR, and in fact a successful surface warfare officer whose had been a senior examiner of the Atlantic’s Propulsion Examining Board, and before reporting to Yosemite, had been the chief staff officer for Commander, Destroyer Squadron Two.

Brian laid out the relieving process schedule for me. It would be short. Brian needed to take off for leave and his new duty station by Tuesday, August 16. Only two working days to complete the relieving process.

I was fine with that. I hated long reliefs, which many relieving XO’s, or any officer for any billet used as a means to cover their act, to validate anything wrong that had happened on the previous watch. I always had been inclined to a short meeting with subordinates and an inspection of spaces. If there was anything wrong, I was inclined to fix it later rather than shift the blame back to the previous regime. This time, I had two full working days and the weekend to be briefed by seven department heads and five others in charge of special programs.

First, I had to meet the commanding officer and then spend most of that first working day with Brian getting the lowdown on the state of the ship.

Brian escorted me up the flight of “stairs” to the Captain’s cabin – I thought as I climbed the steps amidst the immaculately clean landing area just outside my new office referred to as “Times Square” by the crew. Even though all stairs were called “ladders” in the Navy, these up to the 02 level and the captain’s cabin were “stairs” in the truest sense of the word. Immaculate and polished to the Nth degree.

Brian introduced me to Captain Boyle and left us alone. The ten minutes were polite, exploratory, and a bit guarded on both sides I thought. I assured the captain my primary function was to support and echo the policies and philosophy of my commanding officer. Leaving, I felt Captain Boyle had been guardedly succinct. He struck me as old school Navy and a stickler for protocol. I was fine with that. In fact, I preferred it.

Captain Boyle’s primary concern was getting the ship ready for the deployment. That jived with what I considered most important. The question of women on board did not come up in that first short meeting.

At least, he accepted my explanation for needing a haircut. Immediately after that meeting, I went to the ship’s barbershop and got a Navy regulation haircut. I felt better.

The briefings from department heads, special programs, and the command master chief were brief. I initially was pleased with the professionalism of the department officers.

The deck and engineering department heads were Limited Duty Officers (LDO’s). I had the greatest respect for these former-enlisted officers. I came to rely upon both of these two, George Sitton, the First Lieutenant, and Ken Clausen, the Chief Engineer, especially when it came to ship operations.

Commander Tim Allega was obviously a very capable Supply type. I assessed his ability to run a good supply department as superb. CDR Ed Wicklander, Repair Department head, was an EDO (Engineer Duty Officer). Ed obviously was excellent at leading a repair organization. The Supply and Repair departments were almost separate fiefdoms from a combatant ship’s operation and headed by commanders, I recognized they would be pretty much independent from me except when I would have to demonstrate who was in charge. Repair certainly was different from ships in my experience. Ed had a straight line to the captain, bypassing the executive officer. I wondered how that would work, particularly while on deployment.

LT Steve Stresminski, a TAR ran the Weapons Department. He struck me as a superb choice. Although a TAR, he had qualified as a Surface Warfare Officer, and our interview revealed he was more than just competent.

Admin was run by another but more junior LDO, Ensign Mike Jackson. This department was the right hand of any XO. Mike and his chief yeoman, YNC Lucy Gwinner, made me comfortable knowing they would have a personal as well as professional positive relationship with me.

The operations department, Kathy Rondeau, was led by the only female department head. Operations on a tender is not as complicated as one on a combatant. I was not overly concerned and Kathy demonstrated she had a good grasp of her department and was a sharp, responsible officer. I was fine with that.

Master Chief Joe Weaver was an old salt and the Command Master Chief. He was the captain and exec’s link to the enlisted. With Master Chief Weaver being an old boatswainmate, I felt the “Navy way” would be at the heart of his unique position between the crew and the command.

The Dental department was run by a dentist, CDR Bruce Janek. I got a quick briefing from the chief corpsman, HMC Charlie Benda for the Medical department. The new medical officer, LT Frank Kerrigan had just reported aboard. These two departments also were fairly independent. I knew I would have to pay attention to their military responsibilities, but they seemed to be running smoothly.

I spent Saturday and Sunday settling into my new office and adjoining stateroom forward. In addition to determining what I needed in office and personal supplies, I researched other aspects of becoming the exec, like checking instructions and ensuring I understood the SURFLANT policy on substance abuse. I also began a rudimentary “command tickler” where I would have a list of all important command functions and requirements well in advance of when they would occur.

*     *     *

On Saturday evening, the wardroom held a traditional “Hail and Farewell” party at “Dento’s” (CDR Janek) home. I met Frank and Jan Kerrigan for the first time. Both doctors had recently received their medical degrees from the University of Chicago. While Frank was taking over the Medical department, Jan was assigned to the base clinic.

Sunday evening, I dined with the Captain, his wife Mary Ellen, and their young son, Sean.

Monday continued with briefs from all of the special programs. Tuesday was nearly all about relieving CDR Sheffield. The two of us signed what seemed like an endless pile of papers transferring duties and responsibilities from the old XO to the new one. The two of us had little discussion about the women aboard. Brian briefed me on some special rules such as any enlisted woman becoming pregnant was to be immediately transferred to a temporary duty shore station (the term in the Navy was “Temporary Additional Duty” or “TAD”).

Then, we took the papers to Captain Boyle who made it all official by signing his agreement to the transfer of responsibility.

CDR Sheffield departed the ship at 1500.

I was the executive officer of the USS Yosemite (AD 19).

Chapter 1: Last Chance

It was Tuesday August 9, 1983.

After my marriage and ten-day honeymoon, followed by a flight from San Diego to Nashville, I picked up my car at my parents’ home in Lebanon, Tennessee and drove to Chattanooga to spend the night with my sister and her family on Signal Mountain. The next morning, I threw my suitcase into the back, hugged my sister, Martha Duff good-bye, and settled into the driver’s seat of my Mazda Rx7.

It was 500-plus mile trip from Signal Mountain, Tennessee to Jacksonville, Florida and Naval Station, Mayport. With a lunch break, the drive would take nine, maybe ten hours. I hoped to make it in time to get a haircut at the Naval base barbershop. I had not had a haircut since leaving Newport, Rhode Island in mid-June. It would not be good form for an executive officer to report aboard his new ship looking shaggy. I wanted to make a good first impression, especially on the commanding officer.

I actually was looking forward to the drive. It would be the first time since late May, I would take the time to really put in some thought about my new job.

It was not a job I particularly wanted.

As I pulled out of the driveway and maneuvered down the switchbacks of Tennessee 127, I calculated lunch time and place. If all went well through Atlanta, I could make Cordele, Georgia for lunch. That would make it tight for getting a haircut. I wished I had called to see when the exchange barbershop closed. I guessed 1600 or 1700.

It was a long, mostly flat and straight stretch once I reached I-75 on the south side of Chattanooga, straight south through Georgia, and then straight east to Jacksonville on I-10. I reached over and grabbed the cassette rack from the shotgun seat. I found one of my favorites, Dave Loggins’ “Apprentice” album. I had listened to “Please Come to Boston” along with Olivia Newton John’s “I Honestly Love You,” and Roger Whittaker’s “The Last Farewell” incessantly while playing shuffleboard in the Sasebo, Japan “Town Club,” the officers club for the U.S. Naval base there during a month-long well-deck gate repair in 1975 when I was First Lieutenant on the USS Anchorage (LSD 36).

I put the cassette in the stereo player in the center of the console and kicked the Rx7 up to 75. I figured that speed was the maximum to keep me from being stopped by the highway patrol.

*     *     *

I was not thrilled with my new duty station. I had hoped to be the executive officer of a large amphibious ship or less likely, a cruiser. They were commander billets and most attractive for advancement, and would be going to sea. When I was accepted for return to active duty back in 1972, my goal was to spend all of my tours on a ship and to make commanding officer. That was a naïve idea, impossible in today’s Navy where promotion requires obtaining non-at-sea skills ashore. It’s a bureaucratic, inter-Navy political, advancement thing. That doesn’t make it bad, just different from my idea of the Navy. I wanted to be a mariner at sea, possibly for the rest of my life. When I was selected for commander after being passed over once, I still was shocked when my detailer told me I had not been selected for an XO billet.

Not knowing what to do, I placed a call to Captain Ted Fenno, the head of Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) detailing (officer placement) branch. Ted had been the XO of the USS Stephen B. Luce (DLG 7) when I had returned to active duty in 1972 after two years as sports editor of The Watertown (NY) Daily Times . The Luce XO and the CO, CDR Richard Butts, had appreciated my leadership as ASW officer and my ship-driving ability. I became the sea detail, general quarters, and refueling Officer of the Deck before I left for the Department Head course at Destroyer School.

My call was transferred to Captain Fenno.

“Congratulations, XO,” Fenno greeted me.

Confused, I responded, “But Captain, my detailer just told me I hadn’t been selected for exec. I was calling you to find out what you recommend I do next.”

There were a few seconds of quiet. Then Fenno said, “Jim, hang on to the phone. I need to do some checking on this.”

The phone went silent for over ten minutes. Then Captain Fenno came back on line.

“Jim, I apologize. There has been some confusion here. You have been selected for executive officer. Your detailer will call you in the next few days to tell you what ship and when you will report.”

More than grateful, I signed off with, “Thanks, Captain.”

As I pulled onto the interstate, I once again reviewed the possibilities. Either Fenno or the detailer had read the selection notice wrong. I hoped and believed it was the detailer who was wrong. Captain Fenno would have been involved with the selection process. Still, I couldn’t figure out how the detailer could have screwed up so badly. Regardless, I didn’t think it was a good omen.

My suspicions were confirmed when I received the next call from my detailer. “Congratulations. You have been assigned as executive officer of the USS Yosemite.

“You’re kidding,” I almost shouted, “A tender? Is there any chance we could change it to a cruiser or amphib?”

“No,” the detailer replied, “All the assignments are locked in.”

All of the possible options rushed into my mind. I had never considered what I might do if I wasn’t selected or didn’t get a combatant ship. I had roughly six years left before I would complete my active duty service and be eligible for a retirement pension. I wanted to achieve my goal to be a commanding officer. I had qualified for command. But the XO tour was a critical and necessary step for selection. Being on a destroyer tender that stayed pier side in its homeport was not going to help.

Perplexed, I asked the detailer to speak to Captain Fenno again.

“Captain, the detailer told me I have been assigned as the Yosemite XO. I don’t really want to spend my last sea tour tied up to a pier. I came back in the Navy to spend all of my career on ships at sea. A tender by a pier wasn’t what I had in mind.”

“I understand, Jim,” the captain replied, “but that’s the only assignment we have for you. And tenders now deploy.” He hesitated and continued, “The Yosemite is the best tender on the East Coast,” hesitating again. “Before you make any decisions, why don’t you call up Admiral Butts? He’ll give you his honest opinion.”

Of all of the CO’s I had served under, now Admiral Butts was one of the five best. He had also become a good friend while aboard the Luce. I called, and Admiral Butts was enthusiastic about the Yosemite. He even said the tender would deploy in the fall.

*     *     *

After the two calls, I reconsidered. Even though she was a tender, Yosemite had always had a great reputation. I remembered when I was on ships homeported in Newport, I would find ways to take our work to Yosemite, the Cruiser Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet flagship at the time, rather than our “parent tender.” Yosemite’s repair work was far superior.

If I declined, I would have to spend the next six years in shore tours. I had never liked the shore establishment. My Navy was at sea. If I was lucky, I would have a good tour on Yosemite and get selected for command. That would get me close to the retirement (sic) requirement of twenty years of active duty. It wasn’t likely, but I knew this was my last and only chance.

I confirmed I would accept the assignment to Yosemite with my detailer. Soon, I found out the deployment would be in September, seven-plus months to the Indian Ocean, shortly after I would report aboard.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later, in February, I began to think about having women as part of the crew. In the previous fall in San Diego, the married executive officer of the Prairie was relieved for cause after having an affair with his female operations officer. When I heard the news, I thought the Prairie XO was just plain stupid. Now, even though the assignment would have no effect on whether I married Maureen or not – after all, I believed I had found the woman I wanted to be with the rest of my life – I was glad I got married 12 days previously. It was going to be tough enough to be XO with women officers and crew. Being single would be like having a target on my back. I had learned from my detailer the guy who was now commanding officer almost didn’t accept me for XO. Captain Francis J. (Frank) Boyle was rightfully concerned about the problems a single commander would have as executive officer. He relented and accepted me for the job when he learned I was getting married before reporting aboard.

*     *     *

As I was leaving the Okinawa, I went to the Captain’s cabin to say farewell to my commanding officer, Roger Newman. He had been one of the better CO’s in my career and we had become good friends as well as golfing partners. After shaking hands and thanking each other for helping each other through an overhaul and following operations, Roger turned serious.

“Jim, you know XO is different from all of the other billets you’ve had,” Roger began.

I had been XO as a LTJG on a transport unit overseeing Korean troops being transported to and from Vietnam on Military Sealift Command ships, and I had been the emergency XO of the USS Cayuga (LST 1186) for almost three months, a successful and challenging tour, albeit short, in my Navy career. I had been given a great amount of advice on being a full tour executive officer and had been told many sea stories. I thought I understood what my role would entail. Roger made it crystal clear.

“You know when you become executive officer, your most important job is to support the captain,” he explained, “It doesn’t matter what you think about his decisions, if you don’t like his actions, or even if you don’t like him. Your job is to support him, to do anything to make him successful, to be his voice, his mirror reflection. That is your primary job.”

It was rather sobering, and I had been thinking about Roger’s admonition off and on since I began this journey to Yosemite (I think I adhered well to Roger’s advice with the exception of one instance).

*     *     *

My extremely limited experience with women in the Navy, enlisted or officer produced a great deal of concern for me when I was assigned to the one-month Prospective Executive Officer (PXO) Course at Destroyer School in Newport, Rhode Island.

When I discovered there was no training for being responsible for women on ships, I asked to be sent to TAD (temporary additional duty) in the last week of that training to Washington, D.C. and Norfolk to learn from those in charge of the Women In Ships program and from standing XO’s on ships with women on board in Norfolk, Virginia. The last week of the XO program was for specific types of ships to which the PXO’s would be assigned. There was no specific training for tenders. I was supposed to attend the week of training for service force ships. When the Destroyer School command refused to send me TAD, I was granted a week’s leave so I could find out what I could on my own. After arriving in Norfolk, I was unable to schedule an appointment with the Women In Ship’s coordinator in D.C. Finally, in a telephone conversation, she and I discussed what I should expect. She told me to read the regulations. Duh! There was no real revealing information.

I was able to meet with one executive officer, Captain Livingston on the USS Yellowstone (AD 41). I left that hour discussion disillusioned. In my opinion, Captain Livingston was treating the women in his crew like second-class citizens.

So all I knew about women at sea wouldn’t fill up a thimble. My only thoughts were to never put myself in a difficult situation, intended or not, and to treat the women in my command as equally as possible.

I just hoped my new commanding officer, Captain Francis J. Boyle felt the same and would be able to give me guidance.

As I drove, I thought of an irony. While in OCS, my dream sheet for my first assignment was to be a Combat Information Center (CIC) Officer on a destroyer homeported in Mayport. I had received orders for exactly that, but on Thursday, January 31 (1968), two days before I was to be commissioned, I received new orders to report to Anti-Submarine Warfare School in Key West and then report to the USS Hawkins (DD 873) homeported in Newport. At least, my desire to be stationed in Mayport had been granted, only sixteen years late.

The traffic through Atlanta had been slow. I decided to skip lunch, just refuel, and see if I could get to Mayport in time for that haircut. As I turned off of I-75 onto I-10 East, I quit thinking about anything except driving and directions.

I made it to the base in good time, but the exchange was closed. Not wanting to report aboard and deal with meeting folks that night, I checked into the BOQ, to get some sleep and hopefully get a haircut before reporting aboard the next morning.

When I awoke the next morning, the front desk told me the exchange barbershop did not open until ten. So around 0830, knowing morning quarters and officer’s call would be completed, I checked out of the BOQ, drove to Yosemite’s berth and reported aboard.

My adventure was about to begin. I knew it would be my last chance to stay at sea.


One of my trepidations in publishing this “book” in a series of posts is doing so without an editor. i profess i am not a good editor. Captain Francis J. Boyle has reviewed the earlier chapters and found numerous errors of  mine, and i hope to have him review the remaining chapters before i publish them here. But i know i need a professional editor before this is published in book form. i apologize for any errors which i have not corrected.


This is a story of what happened quite a while ago. It is told from the perspective of the executive officer of the USS Yosemite (AD 19) when she was the first U.S. Navy ship to spend extended out of port time at sea with women as part of the ship’s complement.

I was that executive officer. I reported aboard 0830, Thursday, August 11, 1983. This is my story.

This tale is limited to Yosemite’s deployment when she departed her home port of Mayport (Jacksonville), Florida, September 9, 1983 until she returned, April 26, 1984. I have used my daily notes from calendars and spiral notebooks I kept at the time, invaluable input from shipmates during that tour, the ship’s logs, the daily “Plan of the Day” information sheets, letters between LT Noreen Leahy and her new husband LTJG Jim Leahy and the summaries of LTJG Emily Baker’s (now Emily Black) letters to her parents as well as those between my brand new wife Maureen and myself. I have relied extensively on recall of these and other officers: LTGJ Linda Schlesinger (retired as a captain), LT Sharon Carrasco (now Sharon Friendly), LT Frank Kerrigan, and especially Captain Francis J. Boyle, the commanding officer, in addition to sailors who are members of the Facebook group “USS Yosemite (A.D-19) I.O. cruise 83-84.”

You might say this is my written record of oral history.

It was an important time for the Navy.

Women and the Navy

Women have long been a part of U.S. Navy history. But the move toward equality and full opportunity for women in all facets of our Navy began after I was commissioned in 1968. The Navy and the world was changing.

In 1972 the pilot program for assignment of officer and enlisted women to ships was initiated on board USS Sanctuary (AH-17).

In 1976, eighty-one women became midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy.

In 1978 Congress approved a change to Title 10 USC Section 6015 to permit the Navy to assign women to sea duty billets on support and noncombatant ships. The Surface Warfare community was opened to women that year as well. In 1979, the first woman obtained her Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) qualification.

In 1979, officer and enlisted women began to be assigned to Navy ships. The ships were mostly tenders or repair ships, which had limited time at sea. Also in 1979, Ensign Deborah A. Loewer who had been at the top of her class at the Navy’s Surface Warfare Officer School after receiving her commission from Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Newport, R.I. was one of the first women to report aboard the USS Yosemite (AD 19). She later earned her two stars and served as Vice Commander, Military Sealift Command.

In 1980, fifty-four female midshipmen in that first class graduated and were commissioned from the Naval Academy.

During this initial integration of women into sea duty, tenders began deploying to Diego Garcia, the British territory in the Chagos atoll chain almost smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The concept was for the capital ships to come into Diego Garcia’s lagoon where the anchored tenders would provide maintenance, repair, and other services. This put women on ships really going to sea, not on ships sitting in port on a stateside Navy base, but going places where Navy women on ships had not previously gone.

The Yosemite’s Adventure

After my reporting aboard, Yosemite transited the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, and the Indian Ocean, arriving and anchoring in Diego Garcia, “The Footprint of Freedom” in October.

Captain Francis J. Boyle, Yosemite’s commanding officer recommended to the chain of command she transit north to Masirah, Oman to be closer to ships in Battle Group Alfa. After ten days in Diego Garcia, the recommendation was approved, and Yosemite was sent north, anchoring off the island of Masirah, Oman where ships of the USS Ranger (CVN 61) Battle Group would come alongside and receive the equivalent of a two-week restricted availability in four days.

The women of the crew and the wardroom performed extremely well. Their contributions made the deployment and my two-year tour a success. The Yosemite received a letter of commendation as a member of Battle Group Alfa (the Ranger) Battle Group, something rare if not unique for a repair ship. She was also named the most outstanding repair facility, ship or shore of any kind, in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. This is the success story of the Yosemite for which both the men and women sailors and officers should be credited.

Some Thoughts on my Memoir

The story is also about how this executive officer dealt with the tour as “number two” in my penultimate Navy assignment and my last operational tour.

A number of enlisted personnel also gave me input, a valuable look from a much different angle. Their recollections of the deployment, which I collected gave me roughly three-quarters through the first draft, gave me pause. Their recounting required me to consider, as Bob Seger sang in “Against the Wind,” “what to leave in and what to leave out.” For those who are not familiar with Navy ships, they may not be familiar with the difference between an officer and an enlisted perspective.

I was not blind or so innocent to believe nothing was going on between men and women on board. I knew how sailors could figure out how to make anything happen if they wanted something to happen. I also knew they were much more cavalier about adhering to regulations than officers.

Executive officers are four levels about what is happening on the deck plates: department heads, division officers, chiefs, and leading petty officers are between them and the sailors on those deck plates. The XO’s focus is on the ship’s mission, her daily operation running smoothly, coordinating the operation of each of the departments and special staff, and most of all ensuring he or she reflects the demands, the desires of the commanding officer, even the way the XO projects his or her image to support the CO at all times. So even though I suspected there was fraternization occurring, it was not easily detected , and I could not have stopped it without taken draconian actions.

My Story

What happened in the 225 days, just shy of eight months, happened thirty-five years ago as I write. The recollections of all of those who have provided inputs to this story have been distorted by the passage of time. This includes mine. Our recollections from three decades ago did not always agree. I evaluated our inputs with my notes and my own recollections to determine to the best of my ability what actually happened.

This old salt was surprised with what ensued after I reported aboard. What I experienced convinced me there is a right way and wrong way to bring about change.

The women aboard Yosemite during my time as executive officer proved fully capable of handling duties at sea. During this period when the program was under negative scrutiny from the senior bureaucracy of the Navy and the vast majority of male officers and sailors, the women enthusiastically went to work. There were problems just like there were problems when Navy ships only had men on board, just different problems. Ignoring all of the political maneuvering from those who wanted women to have the right to go to sea and those who were dead set against such a policy, Yosemite men and women rose to the challenge and proved it could be done. Successfully.

The tour also was when my final attempt to be selected for command at sea. My final career goal did not reach fruition. Yet, my tour aboard Yosemite as her executive officer was one of the most rewarding of the eleven tours I had during my twenty-two years of service.

This is my story as best I remember it, or to paraphrase my longtime friend and shipmate JD Waits from our USS Okinawa (LPH-3) tours:

“This is my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Some Thoughts Before Getting Underway

i have been either working on or thinking about working on this book for about thirty-five years. One of my biggest obstacles has been wanting to make it perfect, true, reality. But it can’t be perfect, true, reality. This is my perception of that deployment, a view as Yosemite’s Executive Officer, and as i explained in the prologue: this is my story and i’m sticking to it.

i realized there were different perspectives after meeting Chris Hyde a couple of months ago at a cigar smoke shop here in San Diego. Chris was somewhat of a pioneer himself. He was DS2 Hyde for our deployment, data systems tech working in the Supply Department, S6 Division, the leading edge of introducing computers into the daily life on ships at sea. The communications and weapons systems had incorporated computers on new combatants but ship’s business was being introduced to computers through the Supply system. Chris gave me his recollections of the deployment, which was a different perspective from mine. In the back of my mind, i knew of these different perceptions. A sailor is a sailor, one of the most incredible folks to have ever existed. An officer comes from a different angle than a sailor. Of course there were different perceptions.

i wrestled with those differences for a couple of months, but finally resolved my difficulties with the different perceptions, the resolution of which will be discussed later. i just began writing again when i, with the counsel of Martina Clarke, came up with the idea of presenting the book on my website.

Although i’ve wrestled with writing the book, the working title came to me shortly after i left the Yosemite in late April 1985. i think it’s a keeper. Below is a screen shot (thanks, Sarah) of my working copy of the book cover would/will look like:

One guy who was a critical part to making the department a success was the First Lieutenant. George Sitton was a Boatswain LDO Lieutenant Commander. He was an old salt, the epitome of the old Navy on the deck plates. He also became a good friend. We kept in touch long after we left the ship. George passed away in 2006 in Tyler, Texas at age 59, way too early. George and i shared deck, boat, crane, and amphibious stories from our time at sea, especially on the West Coast. We knew many mutual shipmates from the past in deck departments and Boat Master Units.

i thought it was only proper to dedicate this book to George. Below is a screen shot of the dedication page:

And somewhere in the book, i was going to include the below. It is a scan of a photograph copy of Yosemite’s seal/logo. The seal is majestic, a scene of Yosemite National Park. It is fitting for “The Busy Lady.”


Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings, Introduction

i have been commenting here on numerous occasions about writing a book. Perhaps i was bragging, or attempting to motivate myself. In truth, i was staring at the elephant wondering how to eat it. Not quite half way through, i got hung up for a number of different reasons.

i have wanted to tell this story because i believe it might be a turning point for some people, might make them think a little bit differently, better, than what they have considered in the past. i am not a campaigner. Never have been. i don’t even consider myself as someone who thinks he is right. i simply don’t know a lot of things. Many people seem to believe their beliefs are infallible — when you think about that, people believing their beliefs are infallible, such reasoning seems illogical, at least to me — but not me. i may not be logical, but i don’t believe i’m infallible either.

So i wanted to tell this story. i saw something work well for all concerned in a contentious, political situation because it was kept simple: Our captain was the guiding light doing it the “Navy way,” the right way. i think it’s a good story about the right way to approach contentious, political situations.

More importantly, i wish to leave a legacy for my grandson if he cares to read it. There are numerous reasons why, most expressed here before, so i will leave it at that.

Then, i considered another way to make this story available. Then, i forgot about it. But fortunately, i have Martina Clarke, an Irish lass and a wonderful counselor who is insightful and keeps me thinking. This past week, she suggested i write the story as posts. i think it will work. i mean, after all, i am comfortable with print journalism.  I have been involved with newspaper writing for twenty something years, almost as much time as i spent in the Navy.

Beginning within the next week or two, i will be posting my experience of being the executive officer of the USS Yosemite (AD 19) during her 1983-1984 eight-month deployment to the Indian Ocean. i guess if Charles Dickens could do it with David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and A Tale of Two Cities, i can do this one.

i will be posting my story under the category reflecting the name of the intended book: Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings: An Executive Officer’s Memoir. It is my story about the destroyer tender’s  deployment, the first Navy ship to spend extended time at sea time with women as part of ship’s complement (excluding hospital ships).

i hope you find it interesting.

Stand by to get underway.